Elsewhere, standards going and gone: In our view, Daniel Dale got it right on CNN last night.
The fabled fact-checker was responding to a question from the perpetually over-matched Don Lemon. According to the CNN transcript, the question went like this:
LEMON (9/30/19): Listen, Daniel. Ever since House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff paraphrased and added some analysis to Trump's Ukraine call transcript, that occurring with the acting DNI, he has become the president's target on Twitter.Lemon was referring to Schiff's opening statement at last week's hearing with acting DNI chief Joseph Maguire. He also referred to Donald J. Trump's deranged and heinous behavior in suggesting that Schiff should be arrested and charged with treason because of that opening statement.
Just today, [Trump] said this: "Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a fake and terrible statement pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian president, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore no relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for treason?"
Fact-check this for us, please.
Donald J. Trump seems to be mentally ill; Rep. Schiff is not. For that reason, we expect more of Schiff than we do of Trump.
At this highly partisan time, we cheered when Dale was willing to criticize Schiff's performance:
DALE (continuing directly): I did a fact-check of what Schiff said. I said that what he said was confusing. It was a confusing paraphrase. I think Trump can make a fair argument that it was even misleading. But it's not illegal.According to Dale, Schiff's opening statement at last week's hearing was "a confusing paraphrase." He even said it was fair for Trump to claim that Schiff's presentation was misleading.
In fact, the Constitution has a whole clause that basically says you can say whatever you want in the House and the Senate or in committees of the House and the Senate. It is not illegal, much less treason.
You know, we have seen over and over the president alleged treason for things that are just not even close. He is just making up his own definition of a word that has an actual specific meaning in the Constitution.
We agree with these points. As we watched Schiff's opening statement in real time, we thought he was engaging in a practice we'd call "creative paraphrase."
We thought Schiff was embellishing what Trump had said in his now-famous phone call with the Ukrainian president. We recalled the many times we've criticized the nation's ivory tower logicians for failing to initiate a public discussion of "the logic of paraphrase."
(This dates to Campaign 2000, a White House campaign which was decided by twenty straight months of bogus group paraphrase on the part of the mainstream press corps.)
These are clownishly partisan times. Watching CNN and MSNBC in the past twenty-four hours, it seems to us that these channels have completely abandoned journalistic procedures in favor of sardonic propaganda and the promulgation of tribal stampedes.
For those reasons, we were glad to see Dale say what he said to Lemon. In this morning's New York Times, the review of Schiff's opening statement actually got a bit worse, even as Linda Qiu predictably tried to defend him:
QIU (2/1/19): Later in the hearing, Mr. Schiff said that his “summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody.” Mr. Schiff described Mr. Trump’s side of the call as a “classic organized crime shakedown.” His account veered from the transcript in chronology and details at points, and seemed intended to put additional attention on the implication that Mr. Trump was demanding something from Ukraine in return for the assistance the United States had provided the country, but it generally tracked with the transcript’s version of what Mr. Trump said on the call.Very sad but true! Schiff did in fact describe his opening statement as "meant to be at least part in parody.” This is what can happen when tribal fervor melts traditional standards down.
Opening statements in impeachment-related hearings should not be "meant to be at least part in parody.” We'd describe such an impulse as Creeping Maddowism, and we'd strongly advise against it.
This morning, we were embarrassed by the ridiculous conduct of the ridiculous Joe and Mika. (They were helped by their trusted sidekick Willie and their compliant guests.) Trump won't be stopping his heinous behavior until he finally gets someone killed, but our own side is now tilting very strongly in the direction of clown car values.
In large part, cable news is a corporate-run entertainment/propaganda medium. Important people like Adam Schiff should try, very hard, not to adopt its standards, procedures and values.
Dale's written fact-check: In real time, Dale's written fact-check of Schiff went on too long. But you can read it here.
He mentioned Schiff's "parody" comment too. It's time for such bullroar to go.